Patterns of interference: The ethics of diffraction in Mike McCormack's solar bones

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O'Connor, Maureen
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The metaphor of diffraction provides an alternative to the metaphor of the mirror that science has claimed it holds up to reality, establishing and perpetuating the idea of objective, scientific “truth” regarding the natural world and natural phenomena. The metaphor of diffraction suggests a different approach, one that accepts the incomplete nature of human knowledge, that recognises and even embraces the unstable, the plural, and the partial. The 2016 prize-winning novel, Solar Bones, by Irish writer Mike McCormack, not only directly addresses the ecological destruction brought about by late capitalism but also, in the text’s innovative form, enacts the crisis through a diffractive aesthetics of fragmentation and heterogeneity. The text, which is haunted by James Joyce, ranges over themes of ghosts, death, illness, and mechanical and societal breakdown, while simultaneously depicting a universe in which everything is deeply interconnected. It laments an imagined better world but one not brought to fulfilment and, by radically disturbing our engagement with the world, holds out the possibility of a more ethical response, more accepting of the partial and fragmented, than the patriarchal model of omniscience and control.
Solar bones , Irish Literature , Mike McCormack , Metaphor , Language , Environment , Sustainabilty
O'Connor, M. (2021) 'Patterns of Interference: The Ethics of Diffraction in Mike McCormack's s Solar Bones', In: Hughes, I., Byrne, E., Mullally, G. and Sage, C. (eds.) Metaphor, Sustainability, Transformation: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Link to publisher’s version
This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Metaphor, Sustainability, Transformation: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on 30 July 2021, available online: